Meyer Vaisman, Untitled, 1989. Process inks and acrylic on canvas, 91 x 114 x 8 inches (231.1 x 289.6 x 20.3 cm). Gift of Sandra and Gerald Fineberg. Courtesy the artist. © Meyer Vaisman
During the 1980s, Meyer Vaisman was associated with the Neo-Geo movement—along with other soon-to-be-famous artists such as Ashley Bickerton, Jeff Koons, and Haim Steinbach—and gained recognition for works that simultaneously critiqued and celebrated mechanization, consumer culture, and the art market. Vaisman founded the seminal East Village gallery International with Monument, which exhibited the work of his contemporaries. Vaisman’s works from this period show a sense of humor tinged with irony and cynicism.
Utilizing satire like a defense mechanism, in Untitled Vaisman presents cartoon portraits of himself and others. The “others” are old men and busty sex symbols seemingly appropriated from found comic strips or maybe skin magazines. The cigar-chomping figure with a protruding chin at the far left represents the artist. Itself an appropriation, the caricature was made by a street portraitist stationed near the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy—one of the oldest and most famous museums in the Western world. Using process inks and acrylic, Vaisman crafts a painting made of a number of smaller paintings that speak more to generic printing than painting.
The addition of Untitled introduces the work of an important artist new to the ICA/Boston collection, and reflects the ICA’s interest in the decade of the 1980s, as reflected in such memorable shows as the 2012 This Will Have Been: Art, Love, & Politics in the 1980s.